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Disruption: How do you change the status quo? | The Early Stages Podcast S02E05

How to disrupt — and how to convince investors to fund something that to them might seem a bit far-fetched? In the latest episode of The Early Stages Podcast by APX, host Søren talks to his guests about the power of innovative ideas that can change an established market.

In the fifth episode of the second season, Diego Siguelnitzky, Investment Manager at APX, joins Søren as co-host. Their guests include Evgeniya Polo, Co-founder of Emmora, a digital platform to organize unique goodbyes and funeral ceremonies, and Jörg Rheinboldt, managing director at APX, who also joins to share his expertise about disrupting.

Sometimes, for a company to become a success, something in its industry has to fundamentally change. And maybe there are big players out there with a strong interest in keeping the industry as it is. So how can your company disrupt the market and change dynamics and behavior? In Diego Siguelnitzky’s experience, this only applies to one in ten firms. Emmora is one of them: An alternative to the traditional funeral market where customers can book, organize, and inform themselves in the digital space. “We are offering a modern and more positive approach to the end of life,” Evgeniya Polo says.

Jörg Rheinboldt himself was part of a disruptive company. In 1999, he co-founded Alando, which shortly thereafter was acquired by eBay and became eBay Germany. In his opinion, some of the most exciting recent disruptors include Spotify, Airbnb, Tesla, Shopify, N26 and Twitter, but also companies like Meta where the disruptive potential is not yet proven. “Companies that disrupt something usually need a lot of explanation before they disrupt it because they have something in mind that is so different from how it is today, that you need to clarify it in much more detail,” says Jörg. “Founders seeking disruption feel a very strong urge to stop or change something.”

Evgeniya agrees — her motivation was to challenge the complexity of dealing with the end of life by using digital tools to introduce a new status quo. One of the main goals: Making the funeral organization much easier, an area that is one of the least digitized in Germany. “Emmora is something that matches our behavior in the 21st century and may not be as disruptive in a way like ‘the internet is created’, but it creates the opportunity to deal with death in a more intuitive and comfortable way,” Evgeniya says.

Timing is an essential buzzword here: Right now, most of the Emmora users are 60+ and already use WhatsApp, write Emails, and order products online. Ten years ago, this generation was in another place. “So, in five or ten years, Emmora might be exactly in the right place for them,” Evgeniya explains. And her gut feeling about the start-up has earned Emmora a lot of positive reactions already. “Every time I pitched it, everyone around was gasping and said they could have needed that concept before but had to go the traditional way,” she adds.

Spotting a company that is a potential disruptor depends on the typical three questions of “Why you, why this, why now,” according to Jörg. But, he says, “you can rarely prove beforehand that your idea will pay off. We as investors are continuously asking ourselves: Will the founders have the right way to try out if they can do it — and do we trust them at this level with the money that we want to give them?” In his opinion, a lot can go wrong if a founder has a distortion in the way he views reality. In a good way, this can be used to imagine a reality one wants to create. In a bad way, some founders are not able to see the result of their actions and make them clear to their investors as well.

Evgeniya concurs: “Sometimes you are so in your own universe that your thinking becomes extremely narrow. You should be able to talk to people that are not that deep into the topic, otherwise, your company won’t work.”

Listen to the full episode for more insights and subscribe to our podcast series on your preferred podcast platform to listen to a new episode every other week. If you have feedback or topic ideas, send an email to soren@apx.vc or leave a comment on the episode through our social media channels. We hope you enjoy it!

Our podcast series “The Early Stages” discusses all the relevant questions for your “Startup Journey” in 24 episodes. We touch on topics like hiring a team, brand building, fundraising, and leadership. In each episode, host Søren sits down with founders and an APX expert to discuss one stage of the company building process, sharing their personal experiences, learnings, and advice for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

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Europe’s leading earliest stage VC. Based in Berlin and backed by Axel Springer and Porsche, we support the most ambitious pre-seed startups. APX.vc.